Author’s note: In which there is an actual, decent plan for a change, planned reunions and veiled deaths threats.
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***The Boiling Rock (Part II)***
The prisoners had been lined up at the courtyard by the time Sokka squeezed his way to the front lines of the guards, trying to steady his breath from having run the whole way. Suki and Zuko had left to sneak back to their cells. The warden was marching in front of the new-arrivals.
“Welcome to the Boiling Rock. I’m sure you’ve all heard the horrible rumours about our little island. Well I just want to tell you that they don’t have to be true. As long as you do everything I say.” He stopped in front of Hakoda who had been looking at the ground the whole time. “Look me in the eye when I’m talking to you.” The man looked at the side.
“No,” he said simply. The warden’s face turned red in anger.
“Oh, you’d rather look at my shoes? Then take a look!” he caught with his boot the chain connecting Hakoda’s shackles and forced him to the ground. “I know exactly who you are, Hakoda of the Water Tribe. So strong-willed. But don’t worry, we’ll get rid of that in time. Now look me in the eye.” Sokka felt as if Katara’s waterwhip had punched him in the gut as his father looked up slowly. “See? Isn’t that better? You will all do as I say or pay the price.” He turned to address the rest of the prisoners. “You will all…” his words where cut when Hakoda moved his hand, causing him to trip on the chain. Much to Sokka’s amusement the arrogant Fire Nation man fell flat on his face.
As the prisoners were led inside the building Sokka crept at the shadows, following his father and then waiting until all the guards left the corridor. Opening the door hastily, and once again forgetting to take off his helmet, he turned to Hakoda.
“Thank goodness you’re okay!” he said cheerfully. Hakoda leapt to his feet and thrust a fist into the “guard’s” face.
“If you take one step closer you’ll see just how okay I am,” he said threateningly. Sokka lifted his visor hastily. “Dad, it’s me!” Hakoda’s eyes widened.
“Sokka, my son!” He rushed forward to hug the boy. As they parted he smiled. “You know Sokka, you should be more careful with that guard outfit on. I almost punched you in the gut.”
“Yeah,” Sokka said sheepishly. “I ran into that problem earlier.” He turned hastily to check the corridor before slumping to the ground next to his father.
“So where’s Bato?” he asked. “Where’s everyone else from the invasion?”
“The others are being held at a prison near the Fire Nation palace. They singled me out as their leader and sent me here.” Hakoda gave his son a wry look. “But before I left I met some young women who said they knew you. The Yoshinama Fighters?”
“You mean the Kyoshi Warriors?” Sokka asked confused.
“That’s right,” the chief said.
“Their leader Suki is here and she’s gonna escape with us,” Sokka explained.
“Good, we’ll need all the help we can get.”
Sokka wondered whether now might be a good time to break some more news to his father. It wasn’t easy, but it would be better for him to know in advance, instead of walking in to his daughter kissing the Fire Nation prince…
“And you remember Zuko?” he asked hesitantly.
“Of course!” his father replied surprised. “I hope he caught up with you.” Sokka nodded.
“He did. And he’s here with me now. I wouldn’t have found you if it wasn’t for him.”
“That’s good,” Hakoda said, remembering the young man fighting.
“And dad…” Sokka tried again. “I don’t know how to break this to you, but he and Katara…” he took a deep breath, “they’re together.” Hakoda looked at his son blankly for a moment and then it sank in.
“WHAT?” he asked, refusing to believe Sokka.
“I know,” Sokka shrugged. “I had the same reaction.”
It took a few minutes for Hakoda to calm down and return to the matter at hand.
“So, do you have a plan?” he asked his son expectantly.
“We had one,” Sokka said regrettably, “but some of the other prisoners got involved and ruined it. I don’t know if there’s another way off this island.” Hakoda patted his son’s shoulder.
“Sokka, there’s no prison in the world that can hold two Water Tribe geniuses.” Sokka looked down dejectedly.
“Then we’d better find two,” he muttered. Hakoda burst out laughing.
Sokka’s next stop was at Zuko’s cell.
“Zuko, are you there?” he called silently.
“I’m here,” came the whispered reply.
“I just got done talking to my dad. We came up with an escape plan together,” Sokka explained.
“What are you doing here?” a voice came from the corridor. Sokka jumped to see two guards standing suspiciously behind him.
“I was just telling this dirty lowlife what I think of him!” he stammered hastily.
“Well, you’ll have to do that later, he’s coming with us,” the guard said impatiently. Sokka looked at them and back at the door.
“Why?” he asked confused.
“Because we have orders straight from the warden. That’s why,” the other guard said.
“Could I just get ten more seconds to rough him up a bit?” Sokka asked, with a little whine in his voice.
“Fine, ten seconds,” the guard agreed, rolling her eyes.
Sokka rushed inside and grabbed the mattress, hastily passing it to Zuko. As soon as the prince was holding it, giving Sokka a clueless look in the process, Sokka started punching.
“Take that! And this!” he yelled. Catching on Zuko made a few pained sounds. “We have a new plan but it’s gonna need a big distraction. Be in the yard in one hour,” he explained in a quieter voice. Hearing the door opening he grabbed his friend and put him on a chokehold.
“Alright, that’s enough,” the guard said.
The two guards dragged Zuko to a room a few levels higher wordlessly.
“What are you doing? Where are you taking me?” the boy asked confused. They couldn’t have known of his plotting with Sokka. Without answering his questions, the guards threw him inside the room.
“I didn’t do anything wrong!” he called after them annoyed.
“Come on Zuko,” a cold, emotionless voice was heard behind him. “We all know that’s a lie.” Zuko spun to meet the source of the voice, eyes zeroing to a tall, pale girl with an annoyed expression. His eyes widened. “Mai?” he asked incredulous. “How did you know I was here?” The girl rolled her eyes.
“Because I know you so well?” she asked sarcastically. At Zuko’s clueless look she reached at her dress and took out a familiar pendant. “Surprised to see me little brother?” she said, her voice changing to the livelier tones Lia used. She pulled out a paper and began reading in an annoyed voice. “Need meat. Gone fishing.” She looked up at the sheepish boy. “Seriously Zuko? Where’s the other idiot?”
“Sokka’s still posing as a guard,” Zuko said, knowing better than argue with her characterisations. “Would you rather have him come here alone?”
“Why are you two here anyway?” Lia asked crossing her arms.
“Suki and chief Hakoda are here,” her brother explained simply. A look of understanding flashed through his sister’s eyes.
Suki hadn’t been sitting idle in her cell. She had finished practicing her high kicks when the door opened to reveal a grinning Sokka.
“Sokka, what’s going on?” she asked startled.
“I don’t have much time,” he said checking the door for any guards. “If I’m seen with you the guards might think something’s up. I just talked to my dad.”
“That’s great!” Suki said smiling.
“Yeah and we’re escaping today. On the gondola.” Suki gave him a confused look.
“What?” she asked.
“My dad and I came up with a plan together. We’re gonna commandeer the gondola and we’re gonna take a hostage with us so they won’t cut the lines.” Suki shook her head.
“We’ll never make it onto the gondola. There’s too many guards.”
“My dad already thought of that. He said we’ll need a distraction. That’s why we’re gonna start a prison riot.”
“Okay. Let’s say by some miracle this all works and we make it on the gondola. The warden will still just cut the lines, even if we have a captive.” Sokka gave her a mischievous smile.
“Not if the warden is the captive,” he said triumphantly. A noise was heard at the end of the corridor. “I have to go. I’ll find you before we start the riot.”
Before he had a chance to sneak away the two guards from earlier caught up with him.
“Hey you!” one of them called. “The warden wants to see you!”
“Why?” Sokka asked innocently.
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
“Maybe I could schedule another time with him? How’s tomorrow?” Sokka tried to walk away but two heavy sets of arms stopped him.
“He wants to see you, now,” the guard stressed, pushing him to the right direction.
The warden looked at them when they came out to the courtyard.
“Put him in the line-up,” he ordered coldly before turning to face everyone. “One of you is an imposter who thought he could fool me. But now that person is going to be in a lot of trouble. Who is it?” he asked as Chit Sang was brought forward. Sokka paled. Now he was truly doomed.
“That’s him, warden.” Chit Sang said, pointing at another guard. “He’s the imposter.”
“What!” the man said outraged. “I am not. He’s lying! He’s a liar!” No one paid him any attention, least of all Sokka who was busy calming his heart-rate down.
As soon as they were released he rushed to the control panel. To his relief only one person was there.
“Hey, I just got orders. Let the prisoners out into the yard,” he said officially.
“But we’re in the middle of lockdown,” The guard said suspiciously. Sokka shrugged.
“Oh, okay. I’ll just go tell the warden you said that. I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear about you undermining his authority.” He turned nonchalantly to the frightened man. “What’s your name again?”
“Wait!” the man called. “Don’t tell the warden, I… I’m just a little confused.”
“Hey, I’m confused too.” Sokka walked back at the man, talking as persuasively as he could. “But the warden’s in a bad mood and irrational. So if you ask me, it’s best not to question it and just do what he says.” The man nodded nervously.
“Yeah, you’re right.” He pulled down a few levers and door began to open. “We’re letting them out.”
Sokka met up with his father and Suki at the yard not long before it was filled with the prisoners.
“This is it. We have to start a riot,” he told them, trying to catch his breath. Suki looked at him confused.
“Okay, but how do we do that?” she asked. Hakoda took a look around, looking for inspiration and smiled at the teens.
“I’ll show you how,” he said and ran up to a burly man that was standing a little ways. He shoved him abruptly. The man turned hurt.
“Hey, why did you do that for? That hurt my feelings,” he said.
“Aren’t you mad at me?” Hakoda asked surprised. The prisoner shrugged.
“Uhh, well normally I would be, but I’ve been working to control my anger.”
“This isn’t working!” Sokka groaned when a heavy hand landed on her.
“Hey you!” Chit Sang told the startled boy. “You’re lucky I didn’t rat you out. But my generosity comes with a price. I know you’re planning another escape attempt and I want in.” Sokka sighed before looking up to the man.
“Actually, we’re trying to escape right now. But we need a riot. You wouldn’t happen to know how to start one would you?”
“A prison riot?” Chit Sang scoffed. “Please!” He walked up to where most of the prisoners had gathered. “Hey!” he called. “Riot!” In a second all hell broke loose. Hakoda, Sokka and Suki looked shocked.
“Impressive!” the chief muttered.
The sirens were deafening inside the building. Zuko and Lia were standing next to each other inside the cell waiting for a guard to appear.
“Ma’am,” one of them called, entering the cell, “there’s a riot going on. I’m here to protect you.” Lia, still in Mai’s form, turned annoyed.
“I don’t need any protection!” she snapped. Zuko chuckled.
“Believe me, she doesn’t.” Nevertheless the guard came closer.
“I’m sorry, but I’m under direct orders from your uncle to make sure nothing happens.” Twin fireblades met him.
“Like I said,” Lia said as they exited and locked the door, “I don’t need any protection.” She turned to Zuko. “I’ll take care of the guards, you find the others.” He nodded and ran.
Outside the chaos made him pause and stare. Just what exactly had Sokka done? A guard tried to grab a hold of him as he rushed towards his team. Zuko knocked him over without even bothering to turn.
“Zuko, good. We’re all here. Now all we need to do is grab the warden and get to the gondolas.” Sokka said satisfied.
“And how do we do that?” Zuko asked, only to receive a blank look.
“I’m not sure,” Sokka admitted.
“I thought you thought this through!” Zuko told him exasperated.
“I thought you told me it’s okay not to think everything through!”
“Maybe not everything. But this is kind of important.” Zuko glared at the sheepish boy.
“Hey, uhh, fellas. I think your girlfriend’s taking care of it,” Chit Sang broke the argument, his eyes trained on Suki.
The girl rushed to the wall and climbed up to the level where the warden was standing in outrage. A few firebending guards came up against her but she dodged them, throwing a few of them to the waiting prisoners. The warden tried to fight himself, but her speed was too much for him.
“You wouldn’t dare!” he managed to growl before she tied him up like salami.
“Sorry warden, you’re my prisoner now.” Suki greened cheekily and slammed the man to the wall. Hearing the others coming up the stairs, she turned her attention to them. “We’ve got the warden, now let’s get out of here.”
“That’s some girl!” Hakoda manage to say while trying to catch his breath.
“Tell me about it!” Sokka wheezed.
They rushed to the upper courtyard, where the gondolas where. Chit Sang had shouldered the warden and took great pleasure in bumping him against any wall corner or railing him could.
“We’re almost there!” Suki called from the front. A group of guards was positioned in front of the gondolas and they took their stances immediately.
“Back off, we’ve got the warden,” Zuko said calmly. The men loosened their stances uneasily. “Let’s go.” Without anyone lowering their guard, the group walked up to the gondola and rushed in. Zuko stayed last to start up the contraption. As soon as it was moving he started kicking the lever until it broke. Only then he rushed after the gondola. Sokka caught him mid-leap and pulled him inside.
“What are you doing?” he asked torn between annoyance and concern.
“I’m making it so they can’t stop us,” the prince explained.
“Way to think ahead,” Sokka said impressed.
“We’re on our way,” Suki said, her eyes trained to the other side. Hakoda looked back at the prison.
“Wait,” he said. “Who’s that?” Everyone turned to see two very familiar girls.
“That’s a problem,” Zuko said. “It’s my sister and her friend.”
Azula measured the distance between the place she was standing and the slowly moving gondola. Grabbing a pair of handcuffs from a nearby guard she propelled herself to the line and locked the handcuff there. Using twin jets of fire she stated moving towards the gondola, with Ty Lee following her. As they came closer, Suki’s eyes narrowed.
“This is a rematch I’ve been waiting for,” she said. Zuko nodded next to her.
The three teens climbed at the roof of the gondola and turned to face their opponents, Zuko and Sokka against Azula and Suki against Ty Lee. Azula’s eyes narrowed in annoyance as she was forced to dodge both her brother’s fire and the Water Tribe boy’s sword, leaving her no time to land any strikes of her own. A quick glance behind them told her that Ty Lee wasn’t faring any better against the Kyoshi Warrior. She wondered briefly where Mai had disappeared to. She had gone to see her uncle when they had arrived and had yet to appear again.
With everyone on the gondola focused on the on-going battle, no one noticed that the warden had managed to loosen his bonds. The old man jumped to his feet and pulled the tie from his mouth. Leaning from a window he called back at the guards.
“Cut the line!” Chit Sang knocked him unconscious but it was too late.
“He wants us to cut the line,” a guard said in disbelief, lowering his binoculars.
“But if we cut the line, there’s no way he’ll survive.”
“He knows that,” their superior said grimly and ordered for the gondola line to be stopped.
The teens lost their balance as the vehicle wobbled in place and Sokka nearly fell off before Zuko caught him. Ty Lee looked back at the prison.
“They’re about to cut the line!” she called alarmed. Azula looked up and took notice of another gondola approaching from the opposite direction.
“Then it’s time to leave,” she said, jumping to it, followed by Ty Lee. “Goodbye Zuko,” she called over her shoulder. Zuko, Sokka and Suki jumped back inside the gondola.
“They’re cutting the line. The gondola’s about to go!” Zuko explained grimly.
“I hope this thing floats.” Hakoda looked around at the metal surrounding them. This wouldn’t be pretty.
The line was cut almost halfway through when a barrage of stilettos pinned the guards away from it.
“What are you doing?” one of them asked confused the pale girl that had suddenly appeared on the courtyard. A pair of ferocious eyes met him.
“Saving my brother,” Lia, still in Mai’s form, answered before launching a new wave of weapons to the rest of the guards. Before more of them had a chance to attack her she rushed to the machine controlling the line and with a sharp kick she made it start again.
Back on the gondola everyone stumbled – Suki fell conveniently into Sokka’s arms – as the gondola started moving again. The Water Tribe teen looked out of the window.
“Who is that?” he asked confused. Zuko rushed to the window too and his eyes widened in shock as the pendant hidden under his clothes heated up a little.
“It’s Lia,” he explained shocked. Azula was sharing his sentiments as she stared at the girl she thought her friend.
“What is she doing?” she asked furiously. Next to her Ty Lee just shrugged. She knew that this girl wasn’t their friend. Her aura was far too bright to be Mai or any other human as a matter of fact.
The gondola came into a halt on the edge of the crater and everyone rushed outside.
“Sorry warden, your record is officially broken,” Hakoda called smugly at the man that was still out cold inside the gondola.
“Well, we made it out. Now what?” Zuko asked. Sokka stopped to think and noticed Zuko still staring at the Boiling Rock.
“Zuko, what are you doing?” he asked.
“My sister was on that island,” was all the answer he got.
“Yeah and she’s probably right behind us. So let’s not stop.” Sokka tried to make him snap out of it. The prince shook his head.
“What I mean is she must have come here somehow,” he explained and rushed to the other side of the cliff. “There!” he said pointing at a zeppelin that was docked near the shore. “That’s our way out of here.”
Back at the courtyard Lia had stopped fighting as soon as the gondola had reached safety and was now calmly facing Azula. Ty Lee was standing on the side, her eyes moving from one girl to the other nervously.
“Leave us,” Azula ordered the guards coldly. They were happy to obey. The killing intent was literally radiating from the princess. “I never expected this from you,” she addressed “Mai”. “The thing I don’t understand is why? Why would you do it? You know the consequences.” A bitterly smiling Lia suddenly took the place of Mai as she stared at the shocked girl coldly.
“I guess you just don’t know people as well as you think you do. You miscalculated. I love my brother more than I fear you,” she hissed the last word, addressing the presence that lurked inside the princess. Azula’s eyes widened in fury.
“No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!” she moved to firebend but before she or Lia had a chance to do anything Ty Lee attacked. She hit her friend and watched as she fell to the ground paralysed before turning to Lia.
“Please don’t her hurt her, Spirit!” she pleaded, standing in front of the fallen girl. Lia’s expression was unreadable for a few moments before she bowed her head.
“She should be thankful to have a friend like you,” she said softly before disappearing.
Their return to the Western Air Temple was by no means short of drama. Aang and Katara had nearly torn the zeppelin apart with their bending, before they noticed Lia flying next to it. Zuko and Sokka were the first to walk out.
“What are you doing in this thing? What happened to the war balloon?” Katara asked the two boys confused.
“It kind of got destroyed,” Zuko explained sheepishly.
“Sounds like a crazy fishing trip,” Aang said smiling.
“Did you at least get some good meat?” Toph asked eagerly. She was by no means whatsoever passing one more day on a fruit diet.
“I did,” Sokka said. “The best meat of all. The meat of friendship and fatherhood.” Suki, Hakoda and Chit Sang walked out of the zeppelin as well.
“I’m new. What’s up everybody?” Chit Sang asked, waving. Katara’s eyes widened.
“Dad!” she ran to her father elated.
“Hi, Katara,” the man said softly as the girl threw herself at him. The waterbender turned to her brother.
“How are you here? What is going on? Where did you go?” she asked in pleasant confusion.
“We… kind of went to a Fire Nation prison,” Sokka explained. Both he and Zuko were immediately tackled by Katara in a hug. Then Toph decided to break the moment.
“Seriously, you guys didn’t find any meat?” she asked exasperated. Lia and Aang laughed at that before the Fire Spirit walked up to the Water Tribe chief.
“Give him a chance,” she told the man looking at the still embracing Zuko and Katara. “He makes her happy and he truly loves her.”